Broadwell CPU Architecture

We’ll kick off our look at Broadwell-Y with Broadwell’s CPU architecture. As this is a preview Intel isn’t telling us a great deal about the CPU at this time, but they have given us limited information about Broadwell’s architectural changes and what to expect for performance as a result.

With Broadwell Intel is at the beginning of the next cycle of their tick-tock cadence. Whereas tock products such as Haswell and Sandy Bridge designed to be the second generation of products to use a process node and as a result are focused on architectural changes, tick products such as Ivy Bridge and now Broadwell are the first generation of products on a new process node and derive much (but not all) of their advantage from manufacturing process improvements. Over the years Intel has wavered on just what a tick should contain – it’s always more than simply porting an architecture to a new process node – but at the end of the day Broadwell is clearly derived from Haswell and will be taking limited liberties in improving CPU performance as a result.

Intel's Tick-Tock Cadence
Microarchitecture Process Node Tick or Tock Release Year
Conroe/Merom 65nm Tock 2006
Penryn 45nm Tick 2007
Nehalem 45nm Tock 2008
Westmere 32nm Tick 2010
Sandy Bridge 32nm Tock 2011
Ivy Bridge 22nm Tick 2012
Haswell 22nm Tock 2013
Broadwell 14nm Tick 2014
Skylake 14nm Tock 2015

All told, Intel is shooting for a better than 5% IPC improvement over Haswell. This is similar to Ivy Bridge (4%-6%), though at this stage in the game Intel is not talking about expected clockspeeds or the resulting overall performance improvement. Intel has made it clear that they don’t regress on clockspeeds, but beyond that we’ll have to wait for further product details later this year to see how clockspeeds will compare.

To accomplish this IPC increase Intel will be relying on a number of architectural tweaks in Broadwell. Chief among these are bigger schedulers and buffers in order to better feed the CPU cores themselves. Broadwell’s out-of-order scheduling window for example is being increased to allow for more instructions to be reordered, thereby improving IPC. Meanwhile the L2 translation lookaside buffer (TLB) is being increased from 1K to 1.5K entries to reduce address translation misses.

The TLBs are also receiving some broader feature enhancements that should again improve performance. A second miss handler is being added for TLB pages, allowing Broadwell to utilize both handlers at once to walk memory pages in parallel. Otherwise the inclusion of a 1GB page mode should pay off particularly well for servers, granting Broadwell the ability to handle these very large pages on top of its existing 2MB and 4K pages.

Meanwhile, as is often the case Intel is once again iterating on their branch predictor to cut down on missed branches and unnecessary memory operations. Broadwell’s branch predictor will see its address prediction improved for both branches and returns, allowing for more accurate speculation of impending branching operations.

Of course efficiency increases can only take you so far, so along with the above changes Intel is also making some more fundamental improvements to Broadwell’s math performance. Both multiplication and division are receiving a performance boost thanks to performance improvements in their respective hardware. Floating point multiplication is seeing a sizable reduction in instruction latency from 5 cycles to 3 cycles, and meanwhile division performance is being improved by the use of an even larger Radix-1024 (10bit) divider. Even vector operations will see some improvements here, with Broadwell implementing a faster version of the vector Gather instruction.

Finally, while it’s not clear whether these will be part of AES-NI or another instruction subset entirely, Intel is once again targeting cryptography for further improvements. To that end Broadwell will bring with it improvements to multiple cryptography instructions.

Meanwhile it’s interesting to note that in keeping with Intel’s power goals for Broadwell, throughout all of this Intel put strict power efficiency requirements in place for any architecture changes. Whereas Haswell was roughly a 1:1 ratio of performance to power – a 1% increase in performance could cost no more than a 1% increase in power consumption – Broadwell’s architecture improvements were required to be at 2:1. While a 2:1 mandate is not new – Intel had one in place for Nehalem too – at the point even on the best of days meaningful IPC improvements are hard to come by at 1:1, never mind 2:1. The end result no doubt limited what performance optimizations Intel could integrate into Broadwell’s design, but it also functionally reduces power requirements for any given performance level, furthering Intel’s goals in getting Core performance in a mobile device. In the case of Broadwell this means Broadwell’s roughly 5% performance improvement comes at a cost of just a 2.5% increase in immediate power consumption.

With that said, Intel has also continued to make further power optimizations to the entire Broadwell architecture, many of which will be applicable not just to Core M but to all future Broadwell products. Broadwell will see further power gating improvements to better shut off parts of the CPU that are not in use, and more generalized design optimizations have been made to reduce power consumption of various blocks as is appropriate. These optimizations coupled with power efficiency gains from the 14nm process are a big part of the driving force in improving Intel’s power efficiency for Core M.

Intel Broadwell Architecture Preview Broadwell GPU Architecture


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  • Yesumanu - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Not true, assuming Intel will integrate Iris Pro into its mobile CPUs. With HD5200 (iGPU) you can run just about any game on 768p with at least medium settings. Here are some benchmarks for that iGPU: I know that TDP there 47W but it includes quad core i7 clocked at 3,6GHz wnich itself draws some power. Intel could improve on that design, put it into its newest CPUs and if they do, they sure will brag about it. Reply
  • Yesumanu - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Sorry, I messed up the link. You can erase the dot at the end or use this: Reply
  • winterspan - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Core M is NOT going to have IRIS Pro Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Half the problem with Intel Decelerators is with the graphics drivers, AMD and nVidia's drivers are gold plated in comparison, sure they are better these days than they used to be, but still hardly ideal. Reply
  • RyuDeshi - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    In a tablet form factor you are going to encounter severe thermal throttling while gaming, the Anandtech article you linked doesn't have those cooling restraints. Just look at Anantech's article on the Surface Pro 3's thermal throttling. Despite having a slightly better i5, it does worse in most heavy use scenarios. Reply
  • RyuDeshi - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Better i5 than the surface pro 2's version I meant to say. Reply
  • mb5625083591 - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    I think this discussion is completely irrelevant. Very few are going for a graphical gaming tablet (unless it's poker or fruit slices, etc.). That field is dominated by Playstation or XBox on an HDTV.
    Tablets and convertibles are for Internet Surfing or business documents, the low end for Internet surfing only.
  • mkozakewich - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    No, we use them for gaming, too. If you get a high-end convertible tablet, it's because a regular tablet doesn't do it and you don't need a similarly-sized laptop. This means that you'll either have a proper big gaming rig or you'll be relying on your convertible to game. I'm doing all my gaming on my Surface Pro 1, and I can play most games with my CPU at 700 MHz. (I mean, there are orders of magnitudes of game needs. I'll sometimes switch it to full-throttle when playing a game, when it needs more power.) Reply
  • mb5625083591 - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    P.S. For the price of an I7 tablet you can buy BOTH an XBox and Playstation, and maybe HDTV also, and play excellent graphical games. Reply
  • kyuu - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Sure, but there's an obvious difference between gaming on a mobile device and sitting down in front of a TV. So talking about Xboxes and PlayStations is missing the point by a pretty large margin. Reply

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